The health and well-being of poor teenagers from many parts of the world was the main subject of global research project, titled “WAVE STUDY”, headed by Dr. Kristen Mmari, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health.

The study highlighted important facts about the challenges faced by 2,400 teenagers between the ages of 15-19 years from impoverished areas in Baltimore (US), Shanghai (China), Johannesburg (South Africa), Ibadan (Nigeria) and New Delhi (India), as well as their perceptions of their environment.

A_young_boy_sits_over_an_open_sewer_in_the_Kibera_slum,_Nairobi

According to the researchers, the international survey that examined the living conditions showed that the youth in these neighborhoods are facing similar challenges. The worst off were those who live without sufficient support from friends and family.

Need and poverty were the common thread that connected the 5 locations. The differences between the youths in the studied areas can be most vividly noticed when it comes to how they see their state of well-being.

The research claimed that youths from Baltimore and Johannesburg, South Africa, viewed their communities more negatively than all the other areas included in the research.

Despite having the 19th highest GDP in the country, and being just 40 miles from the White House, teenagers in the most troubled neighborhoods of Baltimore reported some of the worst conditions among teenagers in the five cities.

When one teenager from East Baltimore was asked to talk about his neighborhood, he told the reporter:

“Big rats going around in people’s trash, vacant houses full of squatters, and needles on the ground.”

The The American Bazaar reported:

“In Baltimore, adolescents exhibited considerably high rates of mental health issues, substance abuse, sexual risk-taking, sexual violence and teen pregnancy.”

The percentages revealed that the teenagers in Baltimore and Johannesburg are the ones who felt the least safe in their neighborhoods: ranging from 43.9% among males in Johannesburg to 66.1% of females in Baltimore (more details can be found in the listed images.)

ChildLives.r4

On the other hand, the highest averages for witnessing violence were 8.9% for males and 7.0% among females in Johannesburg; 7.0% among males and 6.3% among females in Baltimore.

The study reported that Baltimore and Johannesburg also showed:

“Poor perceptions about their physical environments, their sense of social cohesion, and their sense of safety within their neighborhoods.”

In comparison, adolescents in New Delhi exhibited far fewer of those behaviors and outcomes, despite residing in a much less prosperous nation, Vocativ reported.

image from www.jahonline.org

image from www.jahonline.org

Dr. Mmari claimed that the reason behind this is rooted in the way teenagers interpret their surroundings. She said:

“How kids perceive their environments is really important. That’s what’s driving many of these behaviors.”

She told Vocativ:

For example, a young man in New Delhi and a young man in Baltimore may both live in neighborhoods with poor living conditions and little opportunity, but because the teenager in New Delhi is able to see his environment in a more positive light, he is less likely to experience to adverse health problems. “He paints a different picture”

Dr. Mmari explained more:

“When you look at how they perceive their environments, kids in both Baltimore and Johannesburg are fearful. They don’t feel safe from violence. This is something we didn’t really see in other cities. In Shanghai, for example, there wasn’t a great deal of violence. You’d ask kids about their safety concerns, and they would say something like, ‘I’m afraid of crossing a busy street.’”

More reasons can be considered in order to understand the results of the study, like the rising of violence in Baltimore and Johannesburg, which is higher than in the three other surveyed cities.

The youths surveyed in Baltimore reported living in single-parent households, in many cases with the father in prison, while many teenagers in Johannesburg have lost a parent to HIV/AIDS. Baltimore and Johannesburg youths reported the most-unhealthy trends as well.

The study said:

“The surprisingly similar levels of social capital across sites underscore how the structural constraints of urban poverty and exclusion from the mainstream global economy can have a similar impact on the social resources that young people depend on as sources of resilience across a diverse set of vulnerable environments.”

Alcohol was most common among youths in Ibadan. Marijuana was the most common substance used by Baltimore youths with about 55 percent saying they smoked regularly. While cigarette-smoking was highest amongst youths in Johannesburg.

Dr. Mmari also added:

“When you look at how they perceive their environments, kids in both Baltimore and Johannesburg are fearful. They don’t feel safe from violence. This is something we didn’t really see in other cities. In Shanghai, for example, there wasn’t a great deal of violence. You’d ask kids about their safety concerns, and they would say something like, ‘I’m afraid of crossing a busy street.”

Sources:

(1) Journal of Adolescent Health

(2) Vocativ

(3) IB Times

(4) Photo Credits: Google, jahonline.org, Vocativ, Wikipedia